China to update rail lines to boost coal supply

BEIJING, April 15 (Reuters) - China, the world’s largest coal producer and consumer, is planning to build or upgrade dozens of railways to help move 70 percent more coal out of its top producing inland provinces by 2020, a government think-tank said on Tuesday.

Some 19 lines linking top coal areas in the north to ports in the east would be updated or rebuilt, increasing transport volume to 1.7 billion tonnes, said Dong Yan at the Institute of Comprehensive Transportation of National Development and Reform Commission.

Inefficient rail lines had caused tight supply in the major consuming east and south, the researcher said.

“The tightness in coal supply is mainly caused by the lack of capacity to move coal out. Coal producers have to just leave coal in their stocks,” Dong told the Coaltrans conference in Beijing.

Some 200 million tonnes of coal was taken by truck each year from producers in places such as Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi to ports in the north and east, he said.

“The railway transport remains a key restriction against coal production and consumption in China,” he said, adding that demand was growing faster than new railway lines could accommodate.

China’s coal consumption would rise to 3-3.1 billion tonnes in 2010, and to up to 3.3-3.7 billion tonnes in 2015, which compared with 2.54 billion tonnes in 2007, driven by strong demand from power plants, Dong said. (Reporting by Rujun Shen; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree)